Friday, June 20, 2008

Consumer Christians and the lack of discipleship

Popular Christian author Dallas Willard, who wrote The Divine Conspiracy, speaks of the rampant consumer Christianity that is in the church.

"Nondiscipleship is the elephant in the church. It is not the much discussed moral failures, financial abuses, or the amazing general similarity between Christians and non-Christians. These are only effects of the underlying problem . . .The division of professin Christians into those for whom it is a matter of whole-life devotion to God and those who maintian a consumer, or client, relationship to the church has now been an accepted reality for over fifteen hundred years."

In consumer Christianity, members pay dues in exchange for goods and services. The churches that have the best goods and services (programs and ministries for me and my children) gain the most members. Calls to sacrifice are rarely given in such a system. After all, one must keep the customer happy in a consumer system.

It is rare for any of us to make a decision about, for instance, where to worship, based upon anything other than self-interest. We will say, this is the best place for me personally to attend, rather than asking, where can I worship that I can best serve others? Where can I best be used by God?

I dream of a time in my own life in which I will ask this same question without self-interest.

Where do you see consumer Christianity manifest itself in the church or in our personal lives?


Anonymous said...

I see “consumer Christianity” manifested each time I hear of another Christian friend who has left his congregation in search of a church where he likes the speaking style or personality of the preacher better, or they sing the songs he likes, or he has friends that go there, or the building is prettier, fill in the blank. The reasons are many, but the common theme is “I like it better”.

The new church may offer a wide variety of “worship experiences” and elaborate programs, but as you stated, requires nothing of the members...except maybe a large check in the collection plate.

While there is nothing wrong with finding a place to worship that is pleasing to us, too often we are seeking ONLY a social gathering where our senses are pleased and our personal preferences are met.....forgetting that the purpose of our meeting together is to worship God--acknowledging Him as the only true and living God, praising Him for all He is and all He blesses us with, rededicating/submitting our lives to Him—and leaving the assembly to continue our worship by spending the rest of the week loving and serving others.

I believe that it is ONLY when we do this, that we find true fulfillment in our worship. “Consumer Christians” continually seek fulfillment in the drama of the experience....not in the giving of themselves to God first and then to others.

James said...

Thank you, my friend, for your thoughts. There is enormous truth in what you say. Some Christians are professional "church-hoppers" and endless consumers. When people are continuing their worship in their daily lives, this really changes the perception about Sunday.

I would also say that being committed as a Christian should not mean that we should be content to give a half-hearted effort on Sunday. We should strive for excellence towards God and others in all aspects of our lives. But we can still give an excellent effort, even if the preacher or worship leader is a bit off that morning. And what ties us to a church ought to be more than just what happens one hour a week. As important as this hour is, it should not be our entire spiritual diet.

Garth said...

Do you think ... part of the consumer Christian attitude arises from years of inaction because we are taught and taught, "Don't do anything wrong!" ... so ... out of fear of being wrong ... we tend to stick with the one thing we know as right ...... going to Church?

And ... if that one "right" thing seems to be going sour or not bringing us joy or peace ... it is a typical American tendency to take control to try and fix it ... with a shopping spree?

I think it is one thing to point to the problem ... and an entirely different thing to tell people the right things to do.

And to me the solution does not hinge on the word “right”, but more on the word “do”.

We need to learn and teach “Do something!” ... and ... to not worry about being wrong ... God will make it right.

Then I further think ... the word that solves the doing issue is “Yes”.

We Americans are masters of the word, “No”. We can disguise a “No” in so many different ways, “I can’t” ... “Let me check my schedule” ... “Sounds Good” ... and the mother of all “No”s ... the dreaded ... “Maybe”.

Some randomness from Garth

Anonymous said...

If I don't like my neighborhood, I move. If I don't like my car, I sell it and get a replacement. That's the American consumeristic way. Unfortunately, that attitude does not stop at the doorstep of the church. I've had too many friends leave for this reason or that, and can understand their reasons, but it hurts to see them toss away a relationship. Guess that's just the way it is nowadays....